It's a Swede sensation

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 11:45 AM ET

ATLANTA -- As the final horn wailed in the background, The Captain and The Kid hugged each other in a special Swedish moment.

There was Mats Sundin, 34, the veteran warrior who had just tied the great Borje Salming, one of the his boyhood idols, for third spot on the Maple Leafs' all-time scoring list.

There was Mikael Tellqvist, the 26-year-old goaltender who had just registered his first NHL shutout in his fifth year in North America.

Two Swedes. Two milestones. Reindeer steaks for everyone.

"It's obviously a huge honour, but it's also an indication that you are at the end of your career," Sundin said after the Leafs' 4-0 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers last night at Philips Arena. "I'm just happy for Mikael. He has deserved it."

As a kid growing up near Stockholm, Sundin followed the career of Salming, who was blazing a path for future Swedish hockey players in the NHL. Young Mats could never have guessed that one day he would equal -- and surpass with his next point -- his hero in the record books.

"What (Salming) did for Swedish hockey will never be forgotten,"said Sundin, who fittingly reached the mark by assisting on a goal by Swedish rookie Alex Steen.

Sundin and Tellqvist likely will be teammates again with the Swedish national team at the Olympics next February in Turin.

"That was one of my goals coming into the season," said Tellqvist, who stopped 28 Thrashers shots. "I really want to play in that tournament and represent my country."

These days, Tellqvist is representing the Leafs quite admirably. He was the game's first star last night and was especially outstanding in the second period when Toronto was outshot 16-5.

The puck from the memorable win will be placed on a plaque and presented to Tellqvist, a souvenir he claims will always be cherished.

"I waited for (my first shutout) for a long time and it finally came, so that feels great," Tellqvist said. "But the most important thing is that we got four points on the road trip and almost got six."

Indeed, the Leafs returned home from their three-game journey through the U.S. southeast with a 2-1 record.

Special teams were the order of the night in this one.

Darcy Tucker racked up a pair of power-play goals and Steen scored with the man advantage, too. The other goal was off a short-handed breakaway by Alexei Ponikarovsky, perhaps the most improved Leaf through the first two months of the season.

"I'm have a lot more confidence out there," Ponikarovsky said. "When you are killing penalties, you patiently wait for your opportunities and then try to take advantage of them."


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